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Posted by from Plenum


Group size

1 – 500

Subgroup size

groups of 4 - 6

Is participant experience relevant?

It's okay if participants haven't seen the inside of a classroom in years.

Physical trust needed


Material Description

Worksheet mentioned above



whole day – month

Experience level of the facilitator

routine as participant OR professional facilitator


Level of activation


Woo-Woo Level – How touchy-feely is this method?

From 1.Rationalist-Materialist “No feelings here, folks.” to 5.Esoteric-Shamanic Bleeding Heart:

Innovation Phases:

5 Grounding the Idea
6 Prototyping

Method Category:

Business / Entrepreneurial Thinking
Integration of input into daily life


Prototyping translates an idea or a concept into experimental action. It is a way to create a microcosm that allows you to explore the future by doing. Prototypes work on the principle of “failing early to learn quickly.”



A prototype is a practical and tested mini version of what later could become a pilot project that can be shared and eventually scaled.

Use the following principles to determine what you need to do to stay connected to your vision and translate your idea, concept, or sense of possibility into action.

1. Crystallize vision and intention: create a place of silence for yourself every day. Clarify core questions that you want to explore with your prototype and get to know your own role early, so you can adjust.
2. Form a core team: five people can change the world. Find a small group of fully committed people and cultivate your shared commitment.
3. Iterate: “Fail fast to succeed sooner”, as David Kelley from IDEO says. Do something rough, rapid, and then iterate. Design a tight review structure that accelerates fast feedback.
4. Platforms and spaces: create “landing strips” for the future that is wanting to emerge.
5. Listen to a bigger purpose: listen to what is emerging from others, from the collective, and from yourself. Take a few minutes each day to review your quality of listening.
6. Integrate mind, heart, and hand.

Prototypes are an early draft of what the final result (e.g. a pilot project) might look like, which means that they often go through several iterations based on the feedback generated from stakeholders. This feedback is then the basis for refining the concept and its underlying assumptions. Prototyping should lead you into doing and trying out your idea; it does not have to be perfect.


C. Otto Scharmer, (2009) Theory U: Learning from the Future as it emerges. Berrett- Koehler: San Francisco. Chapter 21
Ela Ben Ur, i2i Experience




The tools you use for prototyping depend on the nature of your idea or insight, as well as the needs and context in which you’re operating. Some prototypes are concrete products; others are meetings, processes, services or experiments. Timing will depend on the context and differ depending on the project: a prototype can take a few days, weeks or months.

You might find the following exercises helpful to align your prototype with the principles outlined above. Worksheet 1 includes questions to help you determine the "what" (clarify intention).

PREPARATION (excluding materials)

Use the following questions to help clarify the intention of your prototype:
1. Is it relevant? Does it matter to all the key stakeholders involved individually (for the person involved), institutionally (for the organizations involved), and socially (for the communities involved)? Very often, the relevance for each stakeholder is framed in a quite different language.
2. Is it right? Meaning, does it have the right size and scope? Does the microcosm that you are focused on reflect the whole (eco-system) that you are dealing with? For example, ignoring the patients’ perspective in a health project, the consumers in a sustainable food project or the students in a school project, misses the point.
3. Is it revolutionary? Is it new? Could it change the game? Does it address and change (some of) the root issues in the system?
4. Is it rapid? Can you do it quickly? You must be able to develop experiments right away in order to have enough time to get feedback and adapt (and thus avoid analysis paralysis).
5. Is it rough? Can you do it on a small scale? Can you do it locally? Let the local context teach you how to get it right. Trust that the right helpers and collaborators will show up.
6. Is it relationally effective? Does it leverage the strengths, competencies and possibilities of the existing networks and communities at hand?
7. Is it replicable? Can you scale it? Any innovation in business or society hinges upon being replicable and whether or not it can grow to scale. In the context of prototyping, this criterion favors approaches that activate local participation and ownership and excludes those that depend on massive infusions of external knowledge, capital, and ownership.

Is your vision a…
• Physical space? Try using an existing space and “found” objects to simulate and evolve the experience you’re trying to create, and to better understand what it needs to be and why - then, invest more to make it feel finished.
• Digital experience? Can you try a “paper prototype” that simulates the screens? Or quickly prototype it on an existing digital platform (simple website, PowerPoint, etc.)? Don’t spend much time. Do it quickly.
• Process that involves a lot of people? Can you start by openly trying a small part of the process with a small group of people and iteratively co-evolve larger aspects with larger groups?
• A service? How simply can you start trying out the impact of the service (even if you have to provide it first in a way you know you can’t sustain in the long run)?
• Physical object? Are your key questions about how it works, how people use it, and/or what the character of the object is? It’s often much faster and easier to create separate, simple prototypes to explore those different questions.


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